24 June 2020
There is increasing information characterizing menstrual cycle length in women, but less information is available on the potential differences across lifestyle variables.
This study aimed to describe differences in menstrual cycle length, variability, and menstrual phase across women of different ages and BMI among a global cohort of Flo app users. We have also reported on demographic and lifestyle characteristics across median cycle lengths.
The analysis was run based on the aggregated anonymized dataset from a menstrual cycle tracker and ovulation calendar that covers all phases of the reproductive cycle. Self-reported information is documented, including demographics, menstrual flow and cycle length, ovulation information, and reproductive health and diseases. Data from women aged ≥18 years and who had logged at least three cycles (ie, 2 completed cycles and 1 current cycle) in the Flo app were included (1,579,819 women).
Of the 1.5 million users, approximately half (638,683/1,579,819, 40.42%) were aged between 18 and 24 years. Just over half of those reporting BMIs were in the normal range (18.5-24.9 kg/m 2; 202,420/356,598, 56.76%) and one-third were overweight or obese (>25 kg/m 2; 120,983/356,598, 33.93%). A total of 16.32% (257,889/1,579,819) of women had a 28-day median cycle length. There was a higher percentage of women aged ≥40 years who had a 27-day median cycle length than those aged between 18 and 24 years (22,294/120,612, 18.48% vs 60,870/637,601, 9.55%), but a lower percentage with a 29-day median cycle length (10,572/120,612, 8.77% vs 79,626/637,601, 12.49%). There were a higher number of cycles with short luteal phases in younger women, whereas women aged ≥40 years had a higher number of cycles with longer luteal phases. Median menstrual cycle length and the length of the follicular and luteal phases were not remarkably different with increasing BMI, except for the heaviest women at a BMI of ≥50 kg/m 2.
On a global scale, we have provided extensive evidence on the characteristics of women and their menstrual cycle length and patterns across different age and BMI groups. This information is necessary to support updates of current clinical guidelines around menstrual cycle length and patterns for clinical use in fertility programs.